According to a report published by specialist defence publication IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review, the market for military drones is expected to almost double by 2024, to almost USD 10 billion.
“The global defence and security market for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) will expand at 5.5 per cent per year over this decade, from the current figure of USD 6.4 billion.”
“Unmanned systems are here to stay,” said Derrick Maple, principal analyst on unmanned systems for the London-based group.
These systems are well established, combat-proven and are an essential and expanding element of future operations across the globe.
The report shows that Israel was the top exporter of UAVs last year.
However, it is set to be overtaken by the United States through sales of General Atomics Predator series and Northrop Grumman Global Hawk.
The report also shows that “Western Europe is forecast to reach USD 1.3 billion in sales by 2024 as it seeks to reduce its reliance on US and Israeli imports.”
However, it also faces competition from China, Russia, India, South Korea and Japan, whose combined sales are predicted to reach USD 3.4 billion by 2024.
The market is being driven by demand for new technology and different ways of using UAVs, according to Jane’s.
“Operators are now moving to expand their mission sets beyond visual surveillance and reconnaissance, and are introducing sophisticated intelligence and electronic warfare systems, as well as a wider range of munitions,” said Huw Williams, unmanned systems editor for IHS Jane’s.
“As the technology matures, we are set to see Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs) come into service,” he added.
These new AI-powered devices will feature ‘stealthy’ characteristics, advanced payloads, and unique weaponry, able to operate alongside manned aircraft and eventually even replace humans in many roles.
Used extensively by the US military during its operations in Afghanistan, drones are seeing increased use in civil applications.